Social Strategies for Local Business Owners

Social networks have made it much easier for businesses to target local audiences on the Web thanks to features like hashtags, check-ins and ad targeting.

The problem, however, is that many of the businesses that could benefit from these features the most are not using them to their full advantage (or at all). Fortunately, it's not that difficult or time consuming for businesses to add local elements to their social media marketing initiatives. For some help getting started, check out five social strategies featured below for the everyday local business owner:

1. Update the Bio/About Section

Local business owners should pay special attention to the bio/about section on their social profiles because this valuable real estate can impact consumers' decisions to follow or like a brand. Moreover, this section enables businesses to showcase their establishment's hours of operation, address and contact info, which is both convenient and helpful for local customers.

Google+ and Facebook are especially important because of their impact on search results. Information from a business's Google+ Page, for example, is displayed in relevant searches conducted on Google. Conversely, Facebook's Graph Search functionality displays information from Pages' about section in relevant searches conducted on the social network, including natural language searches like "restaurants near me" (see image below).

2. Ask for Actions

Actions like check-ins, retweets, shares and likes increase a company's organic visibility on the social Web, so it is not a bad idea to ask audiences for these actions every once in a while. That said, it is important that a brand doesn't overdo these requests, as doing so can annoy customers.

It is important to note that local businesses can ask for actions like retweets and shares within their posts, as well as display check-in reminders inside their brick-and-mortar stores. These reminders can even include incentives, such as a 15 percent discount on purchases for consumers that check in on Facebook during their visit. In addition to increasing a business's visibility, actions such as check-ins, likes and reviews are displayed on Facebook Pages and likely have an impact on Pages' rankings in Graph Search results.

3. Foster a Community

Businesses can use Facebook's Group and Event features to foster a community of local customers on the social network. Groups can be kept private or open to the public, and provide a direct communication channel for businesses to interact with their audience members. Plus, companies can create and promote events for the local community on Facebook, which is a great way to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores and create buzz among local customers.

Similarly, Google+ offers a "Communities" feature that enables businesses to participate in Hangouts (video chats) with community members and create local events. These features can be leveraged to help business owners foster better relationships with local customers both online and offline.

4. Use Hashtags

Hashtags can help any business increase its organic reach on most social networks. To increase visibility with a local audience, however, businesses should use location-based hashtags, such as #chicago, #sanfrancisco or #miami.

Take Frank's Bar for example. The establishment used the city hashtag #Chicago as well as the more specific neighborhood hashtag #LincolnPark to increase its visibility with locals who search for the hashtags on Twitter. In addition, Frank's Bar used these hashtags during a time when Chicago was trending online, right after the Blackhawks won this year's Stanley Cup.

5. Target via Ads

The most effective way to reach locals on Facebook and Twitter is undoubtedly through advertising. Both social networks offer robust targeting options that enable users to reach audiences based on location as well as other data like interests, behavior, keywords and more.

What's more, Facebook recently launched an advertising format specifically for local businesses, dubbed local awareness ads. This ad format enables businesses to deliver targeted ads to groups of people who are within a certain proximity to the company's brick-and-mortar store (see image below). Plus, the social network has an "Offer" ad format, which enables businesses to promote discounts or deals that customers can claim on Facebook and redeem in-stores.

The Local Advantage

Thanks to social media, local business owners have never had a more opportune time to reach patrons in their surrounding areas. These are just five social strategies that they can use to acquire and retain local customers. Be sure to visit Website Magazine's Social Media Mavens channel for more social-local acquisition and retention strategies.